American radio host Bill O’Reilly has been under fire this week, after comments he made on his show. The show in question was about racial prejudice. All hell broke loose after the media picked up on some comments he made about black people, based on a dinner he had attended with Al Sharpton at Sylvia’s soul food restaurant in Harlem.
He has been called a racist for saying things such as: “I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They’re getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They’re just trying to figure it out. ‘Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.”
Is Bill O’Reilly a racist? It’s an interesting question and I could see why that would be the first thought on reading the press coverage on this matter. However, having listened to the show I genuinely don’t think so. He actually states “there is no difference… nothing to do with the colour of anyone’s skin”. His actual message, which is made very clearly throughout the show, is that there are no differences between people of different races.
If you listen to the show, O’Reilly actually makes some insightful comments and is clearly someone who has thought about this issue in some detail. He says, for example, that he doesn’t believe that most black people like the hip hop and rap music that is being played currently and that it is not reflective of black culture. He says that there is so much to admire in the black community, yet it’s the crazy gangsta orientated stuff that gets the media attention. He even points the finger at the media and organizations – who he says are run by white people – who are obsessed with focussing on the worst aspects of black people.
People need to listen to the entire show because many of the comments have in fact been taken out of context. For example at one point he says that nobody in Sylvia’s restaurant was shouting “M-Fer, I want more iced tea!”, but in the context of the show the preceeding comment was that many white people believe that black culture is all about Twista and Snoop Dogg and using profanity – so his point was in defence of black people, pointing out that most black people do not swear and act crazy in the same way that rappers do.
I can see why people thought his comments were patronizing. However, you have to listen to the whole show before branding O’Reilly a racist.